I sat down to try and write an End Rant describing how to know when a mix is done, and then I became stuck. Everyone’s experience with this can be different, so I dropped a line to some colleagues to see what others had to say. -LC

When you can listen all the way through and there’s nothing you want to change.

Andrew Scheps

Sometimes my close-listening, hyper-focusing brain latches onto an "issue" that might actually be one of the elements making the mix interesting and special. It's a big time-suck trying to kill what isn't broken, and often it can make the mix worse! So, if I can check out the track(s) while distracted with something else – laundry, a jog around my neighborhood – and nothing jumps out to me as a problem, it's a good sign that it's time to stop twiddling knobs.

Sadie Dupuis

A mix is done when I remember it sounding better five mixes ago.

Kenny Siegal

It’s a good idea to save mixes regularly, even at the beginning – sometimes you don’t know that it’s done until it gets overcooked/overmixed and it starts to topple out of balance. That said, sometimes other interesting peaks follow when you keep going. Once you’ve had the benefit of going through the meticulous details, try also doing a fast, instinctive, emotional, gestural mix.

Mark Rubel

I send mixes off when I can't find something that I believe needs work, or if I know it's almost there but I can't figure out the last bit. Either way, the client, with fresh ears, will help with that last bit and make it really sing.

Tony SanFilippo

As most will say, a mix is never really finished, it’s just released. But I find that at some point I just run out of things to do. When I start to second guess myself, it’s time to stop.

Steve Genewick

When the song’s climax is clear and apparent to most listeners.

Pete Weiss

The mix is done when I listen back and only hear a song and not a bunch of problems to fix!

Jason Livermore

When a mix has a few elements you’re questioning, but also still find intriguing, that’s a good time to send it out for feedback as those may be the elements that resonate with people. If you get to where everything ends up sitting in the “correct” place, it can potentially sound boring and overcooked.

Adam Selzer

When the only note from the client is, “Great!” or, “We’re done!” – and when I listen from the top and nothing bothers me. My college art history teacher once shared an anecdote about the Russian abstract artist Wassily Kandinsky – who would supposedly take a little oil kit and work on his paintings at the museum where they were being displayed when no one was looking. So – for some of us – it’s never done…

Jeff Stuart Saltzman

A mix is ready to be sent to the artist when I can listen down three or four times and not want to change or audition anything. But, ultimately, the mix isn't finished until the artist signs off on it.

Adam Kagan

I mean, are they ever really done? But if they have to be, after spending a bit of time making sure the elements are sitting how I want them to be, I’ll do a final listen very quietly on my speakers. I’m mainly confirming that all of the key moments, drama, and atmosphere still pop out of the speakers even at such a low level. If they do, I’m done. If not, I need to keep going.

Tony Hoffer

I'm essentially always working to a deadline, either a literal or practical one: The band has a flight booked, there's a mastering session booked, the studio is unavailable for any extra time, there's no more money available, and so on. I basically never have the luxury of not finishing the job in front of me. Almost always the mix comes immediately after (or during) the tracking session, so I'm pretty familiar with the material by then. Usually that means any pre-mix preparations (spot erasing clams, compiling master takes, edits, or other cosmetic repairs) will have been done in the workflow, so the monitor balance we're working from is pretty close to a final mix anyway. Typically, it's a matter of adjusting the mix over time to emphasize things here and there, and I'll have a Post-it note with cue points for those changes. As soon as I've rehearsed the moves and everybody is happy with the balances, we put it down to 1/2-inch tape, and if it still sounds good on playback, we move on to the next one. The pace of work depends on how many songs there are to finish, as well as how much time is left before the buzzer. I'm sorry if that answer is unsatisfying, but it's how I work. It's not the case that the mix isn't done until I see the face of god in it or something.

Steve Albini

When I can play a mix for someone else and not feel the need to tweak anything. Also, when I can listen to a bounce with my computer screen off and just enjoy the music.

Gus Berry

I like to listen from the couch in the back of the studio while the client is listening up at the console. If we can make it through the whole pass, and neither of us brings anything up when the song ends, the mix is done.

Zach Bloomstein

The mix is done when someone else does the Atmos mix off your stems!

Matt Ross-Spang

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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